With the proper precautions, there’s no reason Zika should impact your trip to Ecuador.
The reason that Zika in Ecuador has received little attention in the international press is due to the relatively small number of cases compared to other countries in Latin America, and even compared to countries like the United States.
The cases which have been reported are found almost exclusively in the low-lying coastal regions of the country, most prominently in the Manabi region. However, the number of cases in Manabi has fallen dramatically from 2,509 cases in 2016 to just 759 in 2017. This trend has been observed in the popular Esmeraldas coastal region as well.
On January 10, 2017, Ecuador’s minister of health, Veronica Espinosa, indicated that Ecuador has the lowest prevalence of the Zika virus in all of South America, with just 1.7 cases per 10,000 people, according to El Universo.
As of August 2017, the Ministry of Health’s Zika bulletin shows that only five cases have been reported in the Galapagos since 2015, and less than 10 throughout the entire Amazon region of Ecuador. None have been reported in the Province of Napo, where most travelers visit in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Of the 4 million-some people living in Guayas, there have been just over 1,000 reported cases (a .03% prevalence). You should still follow basic rules to avoid mosquito bites, but the risk is extremely marginal.
In the Sierra highland region of Ecuador, the altitude and environmental conditions aren’t ideal for mosquitos, so the CDC states that travelers to this region have a minimal risk of contracting the virus. This means that popular destinations like Otavalo, Cuenca, and tours along the Avenue of the Volcanoes pose very little risk to travelers.
Detail of number of Zika cases in Ecuador by city/town and by province
|PROV DOMIC||CANTON DOMIC||AUTOCTONO||IMPORTADO||TOTAL GENERAL|
|LOS RIOS||BUENA FE||2||2|
|SANTO DOMINGO||LA CONCORDIA||2||2|
(Source: Ecuador Ministry of Health, June 2016, in Spanish)
To put number of cases into perspective, Ecuador has 206 cases vs. 691 cases reported in the continental United States. As depicted in the graphic below, Florida and Texas have 121 and 36 cases, respectively, and New York state has 127 confirmed cases.
Avoiding the most impacted areas of the Ecuadorian coast is the principal precaution, but if you find yourself in an impacted region, the Zika Virus is known to be transmitted mainly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito in addition to unprotected sex with an infected individual
So travelers should use insect repellant during the day and try and wear long pants and long sleeves to cover any exposed skin. Late afternoon and early evening are peak times for Aedes aegypti activity, so staying indoors or in a mosquito free environment during those hours is recommended.
The majority of people who are bitten by a carrier mosquito are asymptomatic. However, when a person does experience symptoms, they last from 2-7 days and might include:
- Joint & muscle pain
- Red eyes (conjunctivitis)
- General malaise
The major threat of Zika is to women who are pregnant or may become pregnant - the disease can be passed from mother to child and has been known to cause birth defects in infants, including microcephaly. Since it can also be transmitted sexually, the Center for Disease Control recommends any male who has been to an area where Zika is prevalent should use a condom during sexual intercourse if their partner is pregnant.
In very rare cases, Zika can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can lead to muscle & joint pain or temporary paralysis lasting from several weeks to several months. The Ecuadorian Ministry of Public Health reports that these autoimmune and neurological complications are infrequent and have only been identified in French Polynesia.
If you think you have contracted the virus you should consult with your doctor before you start any kind of treatment.
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